Instant Search, and Return on Investment

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Ian Lurie Sep 15 2005

Yahoo Search BarYahoo has added this nifty new instant search feature. You can check it out here. Really, it’s nifty. It also looks like a monumental waste of money. Here’s why…

Yahoo probably expended a fair amount of time and money on this tool. It shows you best match for a given search, before you even click the ‘search’ button, thereby saving you maybe .5 seconds. What does that do for me? Or Yahoo?

Not much. For me it’s an annoyance, as I want to see 3 or 4 listings, not 1. We all know search engines are rarely perfect – I want to scan a bit. And I’m not so carpally impaired, even after 25 years of video gaming, that I can’t click the ‘search’ button.

For Yahoo, it creates a little buzz, but where’s the sustained payoff? Will they get more searchers because of this? Unlikely. Will they generate more ad revenue? Also unlikely. My guess is that their development team built this so they could show off a new trick.

If you want to see a good, similar gadget, try Google Suggest. That doesn’t interrupt my use of the search engine, and it provides useful results. It might bring more searchers, someday, and therefore offers some potential.

I’m not writing this to critique search tools, though. There’s a broader lesson here: When investing in technology or other widgets on a web site, don’t add things just because you can. Ask hard questions, first, and make sure there’s going to be a payoff, in increased revenue, happier users or some other larger web site goal. If a new e-gadget isn’t going to help ring the cash register, one way or another, find a way to change it, or don’t use it at all.

tags : conversation marketing